Rebar, steel and timber prices soar

Image: Dreamstime/Jose Alberto Barco Figari

The prices of some construction materials including concrete reinforcing bars, fabricated structural steel and imported wood are continuing to soar, the latest official figures show.

Analysis by the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy (BEIS) found that the price of  concrete reinforcing bars rose 19.8% in the 12 months to March 2021. Fabricated structural steel was up 17.6% and imported sawn or planed wood rose by 16.6% over the same period.

Meanwhile the material price index of ‘all work’ increased by 7.8% in March 2021, compared to the same month in the previous year.

Sales of sand and gravel increased by 3.4% in the first quarter of 2021, although they are still down by 4.1% as compared to the same quarter in the previous year.

Ready-mixed concrete sales decreased by 0.4% in the fourth quarter of 2020 compared to the previous quarter and were 6.9% down compared to the fourth quarter of 2019. Overall, ready-mixed concrete sales decreased by 17.3% compared to 2019.

But there was an 11.2% increase in brick deliveries in March 2021 compared to February 2020, before the start of covid-19 restrictions.

Meanwhile, there was a 1.2% decrease in concrete block deliveries in March 2021, compared to February 2020.

When it came to imports and exports, the value of construction materials imported in the fourth quarter of 2020 rose by £757m compared to the previous quarter, an increase of 18.7%. Exports increased by £119m in the fourth quarter of 2020, an increase of 6.9% on the previous quarter.

The news of rising timber and steel prices came after construction firms were warned last week (29 April) to plan in advance and work with supply chains amid an ongoing squeeze on the availability of a number of products and materials.

A statement from John Newcomb, CEO of the Builders Merchants Federation and Peter Caplehorn, CEO of the Construction Products Association, co-chairs of the Construction Leadership Council’s Product Availability working group. said: “There is unlikely to be any improvement in timber supplies this year with little or no timber currently coming into the UK that is not already pre-sold and global demand outstripping supply. However, the supply of roofing products is expected to improve in the second half.”

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